The current Number Two was a portly chap, with a pockmarked face, a lazy eye, and a wispy, brittle black hairstyle- one better suited to a mad scientist, or a befuddled English professor. Number Six mused that he could see the patches on the elbows, thready from use, frayed at the edges.

Always a loose thread, he thought, and smiled indulgently, with a tilt of his head, as the current Two turned to face him.

"My dear Number Six! We meet again!" All but bellowing with warmth, he bowled forward, like a bull on the charge. For all his frayed-elbows, there was little that was tweedy about the rest of him- no, he was a -big- man. He lived within himself.

Six returned the gesture sportingly- the hug, a stiff and casual embrace, a smirk that crossed one corner of his mouth but was held rigidly there. His blue eyes appraised, scrutinized.

Two laughed at him, waggled a finger. "I see you, Six! Always looking for the flaws, eh? The loose thread. Well, we'll have plenty of time for that my boy! Plenty of time, now."

"Do we?" Six's reply was a soft, keen trill, head tilting sharply to one side.

"We do. All the time in the world," Two assured him. "Tea." It wasn't a question. The silver sterling plate and set rose out of the floor, on one of the smooth white pedestals near Two's command desk. The ambient light swayed, gave the slightest chnge of tone- a warmer kind of yellow, designed to invoke sunlight, friendly companionship.

Six took the tea. It was, of course, immaculate. It did not contain sugar; the file said that he took it so. A memory flittered through him- taking the silver tongs and plip-plip-plip dropping imported sugar lumps into a past cup, just to be contrary- but he felt no need to repeat himself today. The memory alone would suffice; this Two would remember.

Two watched him, watched his hands, the careful, closed movements of them, and howled with laughter. "Never the same performance twice, eh?" He bellowed, he resonated with mirth.

Six feinted, coyly. "All the world a stage?"

"And all the men and women merely players," Two riposted, a pleased nod. "Good. Good! Things are as they were. Mustn't have you going soft on us now."

"Now?" Another icy smile, a shadow across the sunken eyes of Six.

"Now that things have -changed-," Two responded. "You and I, we'll do this forever! United, as I told you before." He stepped to gaze up at Six, who was slightly taller, an angry, brittle crow of a man. "Until death do us part."

"You died? Again?" The slightest lift of an eyebrow. It was like they were talking about the weather. An inconsequential thing.

"You did," Two said, grave as Halloween, turning away to raise his arms. "But that doesn't matter! You live forever here. No age, no death, no fear, no pain! Except of course the pain of being apart from your society, your fellow-man. In every way, the platonic ideal."

Six had such a way of spinning back one's own words to make it clear he was laughing at you. "Platonic?"

Twinkle in Two's eyes, and he came and patted Six on the shoulder. "I shall be your Socrates."

Six broke into a broad, almost evil smile. "And I will be your hemlock." With careful, malicious precision, he spilled the rich amber tea onto the perfect white floor, then gently set the cup down on the pedestal. "Thanks for the tea."

Two nodded approval, cackling at the tea stain. "Be seeing you!"

He was still laughing as Six thundered out of the room in a flurry of simmering rage.